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Audio from Albany: Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos

As part of a regular weekly feature on the Politics Now blog, Tom Precious of The News' Albany Bureau posts an audio interview with a newsmaker from the Capitol.

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ALBANY — The Legislature's top Republican is attacking a plan by the Cuomo administration's Thruway Authority to hike tolls on trucks by 45 percent, calling it a back-door tax hike maneuver."

If you want to talk about an indirect tax and fee on people, that 45 percent is exactly that," said Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.

SkelosIn an interview this afternoon, Skelos said the toll hike — preliminarily approved Wednesday by the Thruway's board — will end up hitting consumers in the form of higher prices on a range of products.

"The trucking industry is a vital part of our economics in the state," Skelos said of the higher shipping costs the toll hike will spawn.

The majority leader touched on a number of topics, including:

* Minimum wage hike opposition by Senate Republicans: "When the economy is good and booming then I think there's an opportunity to do a minimum wage increase then," he said during the interview, which occurred shortly before six Occupy Albany protesters — pressing for a minimum wage hike — were arrested for refusing to leave the majority leader's Capitol office.

He defined that as a period with better employment numbers and improved sales and corporate income tax collections.

* Did he ever work a minimum wage job?: In law school, he said he worked at "below minimum wages" in the college cafeteria.

* On Carl Paladino supporting a GOP primary opponent to Sen. George Maziarz: The Buffalo businessman, Skelos said, is just "attention starved" and upset that he is among the wealthy New Yorkers who did not see their taxes drop last December, as scheduled.

* Likely deals before the end of the session: A new prescription drug "real-time" reporting system and a decision on whether to make teacher evaluations public, he said. Among deals not likely: an effort to reduce wrongful convictions by, among other things, requiring videotaping of police interrogations.

* On the cozy factor between Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Senate Republicans: "All I can say is I think he's very happy the way things are working in Albany. I think it's for his benefit. I think it's for our benefit. It's for the Assembly's benefit."

--Tom Precious

Listen to the full conversation with Skelos here:

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